The exciting, but scary thing about Millennials is that they’re becoming increasingly prominent fixtures in global tourism, yet notoriously hard to pin down and label.
We watch and follow their behaviour precisely because of what we’ve come to understand what they represent: the future of travel, as a loosely defined demographic, but also in respect of the integral role tech plays in their lives.
Why should we care?
Already by 2015, Millennials had surpassed Generation X as the largest portion of the US workforce alone, representing almost half of all online leisure travel bookings. The average millennial took 3 ‘staycations’ during that year. When they travel for work, they easily combine business with personal travel into a longer experience, so boosting travel spend. In fact, compared to other identifiable demographics, Millennials tend to spend more per day on holiday.
This generation of travelers is predicted to reach as high as 78 million by 2030 and might outnumber baby boomers by a huge margin of 18 million.
For them, value wins over budget according to an ASTA study: they’re willing to splurge on lodging & tours, amenities that add comfort or luxury to their experience, including any travel-related Apps. The challenges of identifying and accommodating this market better are well worth investing our resources.
Who are they?
This diverse demographic itself subdivides into different sets of needs, behaviours and motivations. An ITB study described them as having come of age with a built-in expectation of being in control of their travel activities. They’re big on choice, including apps made for travel, and want the choice of when and how to engage with travel content. They tend to travel solo or in couples. Younger millennials that lack travel experience are open to help from experts; older ones are likely to seek help with honeymoon planning.
Millennials have grown up on the Internet and are accustomed to the glut of information out there – often dishonest, inaccurate content that is tedious and discouraging to sift through. They tend to suffer from #FOMO (fear of missing out!), a big decision driver in many cases, and the need for instant gratification. Time is very precious to them. Other words associated with them are ‘oversharing’ and ‘showboating’; and they’re partly to blame for breathing life into sharing economy concepts like Air BnB and Uber.
A SKIFT study on Chinese millennials found that they liked showing off their style and taste, regardless of income. Count on them to spend lots on in-destination shopping. They appreciate good value for money in decor, service and cuisine. Being adventurous and open-minded means they’re open to seeing the world in different ways. They tend to be foodies often with ‘alternative’ diets, like veganism, gluten-free, etc. They have a social conscience, preferring to support sustainable and responsible tourism, with CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives as deal clinchers.
The desire to ‘give back’ is also a strong millennial trait and most want to interact with brands that not only share their values, but also are a force for good in the community.
They may work abroad, get involved in voluntary programmes, and are keen to learn something new. They’re interested in the unique experiences of a destination, its culture, local living, food, nightlife, preferably in the company of like-minded travellers, namely other millennials, to socialise and have fun with.
Millennial isn’t a purely demographic entity – it’s a shift in approach to travel that will extend beyond this generation and instead lay a foundation for future generations of travellers who will demand tech-enabled travel experiences with a wider range of options, freedom to choose and so drive increased revenue for the industry. An investment in millennials is an investment in future opportunities and long-term success. It makes me wonder, what came first: the desire for immersive travel experiences or millennial travel tendencies? Given how huge the transformative full immersion is for 2017, it’s best not to waste any time wondering about it; but rather put together a millennial POA and action it ASAP for FOMO.
Know Thy Client
Being and staying relevant to millennial travellers, first get to grips with what motivates them, how they like to travel, and what puts them off. Start by understanding that millennials are most likely to use mobile devices and digital platforms to research, book and share experiences. They expect brands to be connected and enable seamless person-to-digital interactions. That seamless experience has to give them the desired balance between travel expertise and self-service convenience. What does that mean in plain English and how does that affect you?
49% of Millennials use smartphones when planning trips & 35% book journeys on them..
It means you’d better have a mobile strategy by now. One with a user-friendly design that says plainly to millennials visiting your website, blog or other digital platforms, that you speak their language, you’re not trying to bamboozle them with incredible, patronising, outdated content, or sell them stuff. Instead, share information that’s useful to them. It means your brand clearly stands for something, it is transparent and authentic – you’ve got your company video where they can see whom they’re dealing with – and your presence on social media makes it easy for them to engage with you (and vice versa) when they choose to.
Check that your digital marketing platforms and sales tools are all optimised for mobile and ensure that your messaging is always audience-specific. If millennials live in a space where apps are commonplace – they understand the need and use for apps well – then it’s good strategy to ask your millennial clients what they want. Since it’s instant gratification they’re after and anything that saves them some time, implement your own instant messaging service so they can contact you on their mobile device. They buy travel with a multi-channel approach, perhaps starting on a mobile platform, then do the booking on a website and finish the process by accessing their travel documents on an app, for example.
Millennials are very good at doing their own research online, but you can disrupt the old, tedious ways of doing travel research and help them shave hours off the process, by presenting all the content they need in a format they can consume conveniently.
The fact that they have a shorter booking window than older generations means you’ve got very little time to get your content punching straight to the heart; so the sharper your focus, the better for both of you.
Figure out how to showcase your interesting travel experiences as something different from what they know. Video is a huge motivator for them – the content you provide should address that in a concise format with text snippets that can be skimmed and don’t weigh down shorter attention spans. You may be aware that video consumption on digital platforms has risen yearly with YouTube boasting 1 billion+ users, Facebook with 8 billion streams per day, and Snapchat with 6 billion streams per day. Being there puts you in the space where millennials exist. NSight found that millennials focus primarily on destinations and their activities when accessing online content: 80% view travel articles & photos online and 2 thirds view video.
Give them control
They like feeling in control of their travel planning – it’s vital that you provide them with options to choose from to build their itinerary of desired experiences. Manage their search for the right experience to match their mood and needs in the moment by packaging your content in a way that helps them to make informed decisions, guided by the necessary peer endorsements.
This is an easy way to deal with inherent millennial skepticism of self-focused brands and the authenticity of most content floating around the Internet. It’s also the most direct way of eliciting from millennials exactly what it is they want, so that you get your marketing messaging spot on. The trick is to optimise social sharing of (positive) reviews to ensure they’re easy to find, consume and comment upon. So review the Review situation.
Positive reviews become valuable UGC, which you can maximise by creating that #FOMO wanderlust. Simply share links to your digital itineraries, tag your positive commentators, and wait for your content to accumulate views. After all, Millennials use social media to browse travel stories about exotic locations told by people they relate to and trust, to help them decide where and when to go, and what to do when they get there. In general their decisions are strongly influenced by online travel reviews, by their friends, plugged-in and knowledgeable locals, blogs and social media. Blogs need to focus on the traveller with an altruistic slant, rather than be seen as self-serving, which is a major turn-off to millennials. They endorse the culture of sharing information, seeking and giving advice for free because it serves the traveller community at large.
Who writes your blog, manages your social media, consults on millennial matters? If they’re more susceptible to views, reviews and advice from their peers, then consider the value of employing someone their age to do the job. This just forms part of simplifying and streamlining how millennials find and enjoy your destination experiences, because someone who’s like them, understands them, is engaging them on behalf of your brand. A young, tech savvy millennial employee can monitor and advise you on relevant trends, doubling as an influencer to millennial travellers.
Engagement is key in addressing Millennials – talk directly to them in their own language, in the online places they frequent, on the devices they use, with the technology they’re accustomed to, with the endorsement of independent peers to seal the deal.